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To Be Obese

… or not to be obese.

That is the question the CDC is now considering when prioritizing Americans for the coronavirus vaccine. We all know healthcare workers will be at the top of the list, and seniors living in congregate care communities, but did you know that obesity may just buy you an early ticket to immunity?

Weeks ago, I asked the Bride and Groom if they noticed that most of their sickest Covid patients were overweight. They shrugged and said it hasn’t been studied, but doctors were hearing anecdotal stories, and so many people in this country fall into that category anyway…

One population they may consider prioritizing: Americans who are obese — a major risk factor for severe covid-19 that some experts say has gone under-recognized. 

“Obesity was ignored for the longest time and overweight was completely ignored,” said Barry Popkin, an obesity researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now the CDC is talking about both, he said. 

The agency has already laid out four groups that should be considered for priority: health-care personnel, workers in essential and critical industries, older adults, and people with certain underlying medical conditions — including “severe obesity.” But it’s unclear to what extent the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will prioritize this group.  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/11/30/health-202-obese-americans-could-be-prioritized-coronavirus-vaccine/

So what exactly is “severe” obesity? According to the CDC, 35.9% of American adults meet the criteria for severe or “morbid” obesity; it is defined as 100% above your ideal body weight, or a BMI of 35^.

To calculate your Body Mass Index, divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html My BMI is “normal” which is funny since I feel anything BUT normal, still it’s reassuring considering all the pie I’ve been eating!

The shocking statistic to me was learning that 20% of children (including teenagers) in this country are obese, ie a BMI of 30^.

This morning Moderna applied for emergency use authorization – which means the Bride will learn if she got the real dose or a placebo in September. Of course, we’re all betting she received the vaccine because tomorrow the whole family will be tested and so long as we are all negative, we can be inside together, we’ll be able to hug again. We’ll be a family again. We’ll be a POD!

And it couldn’t come at a better time because snow flurries are predicted tonight! Have you been naughty, not wearing your mask? Or have you been nice?

“Not Begrudging”

Every morning I fire up three news sites on my computer: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the BBC. Two out of three yesterday were all about how Mr T will “allow” Biden’s transition team to proceed. Allow? This is the way an abusive spouse might speak; guess what, the American people really didn’t need his permission. Numbers don’t lie, the Biden/Harris team was going ahead just fine without the GSA.

But I guess reality, not a TV show alternative reality, has to set in sometime. Today we hear that Joe Biden described the White House help on the matter as “…not begrudging.” Why do I find that so amusing? Mirriam-Webster defines begrudge as, “To give or concede reluctantly or with displeasure.” I mean, did I miss something; has Mr T conceded?

Teenagers are the ultimate begrudgers. Parenting at this point especially, is all about patience. If you ask them to empty the dishwasher for instance, 9 out of 10 times their performance will be halting and begrudging. After all, they have better things to do – playing video games, texting, maybe even homework? I learned a long time ago not to expect compliance along with a good attitude when dealing with the pre-teen and teenage set. A simple “Fine” would suffice.

Just getting the job done, with or without a smile, was good enough for me.

Getting Mr T behind us come January will be just the start of a transition for the ages. Great Grandma Ada used to say, “Everybody’s in transition!” The friends she would meet to paint with were scattering around the country. Her friends were moving to be closer to family. Only Mimi stayed put in NJ; nearly 99, Mimi is a legend in our old community. And she showed up to honor her friend Ada at the graveside service.

This Thanksgiving, there will be an empty seat at our table. Our family will celebrate on Friday since the Bride will be working tomorrow. We are all honoring her in our own way; I will light the candles on her mother Ettie’s candlesticks for the sabbath, Bob will say the prayers, and the Bride will wear her bluebird necklace. We’ll watch the final screening of the Rocker’s documentary film about Ada.

Her abundant love will be forever present, no matter how many transitions are yet to come, begrudgingly or not. And since Brookdale is still in lockdown, I hope that Hudson can patiently wait until Friday for his plate of turkey with all the trimmings.

Let’s face it, this virus is out of control. And the worst part is, the symptoms can be deceiving. For instance, I just saw my amazing hair stylist Chase for a splash of magenta pink, because why go halfway when coloring your hair? He had tested positive for Covid-19 last month, and so I had to get up to date on his recovery and the latest Drag Queen shows.

Yes, we still have Drag Queen brunch shows in Nashville at the City Winery – outside at socially distant tables. You can either Venmo some tip money after a performance, or they might hold out a butterfly net! Lip synching in a mask and full makeup has got to be difficult though.

Anyway, he told me he knew something was wrong when he had a headache that wouldn’t quit. And then he started vomiting. And that was it, mostly Chase’s Covid drama was a GI thing, with generalized aches and pains. No fever. No coughing. The Groom really didn’t have much coughing either, just fever and a generalized achiness all over.

Oh and there was the smell, the sweet smell of pixie sticks that could strike at a moment’s notice. One of the Bride’s friends, a hospitalist in Asheville, lost her entire sense of smell and taste for months.

While talking to Doctor Bob about all this, he asked me what these “protean manifestations” might suggest. First, I had to look that phrase up! Proteus was the mythological master of disguise, so it describes something that is complex, and can take on varied shapes and meanings. Like a Changling in Star Trek! In other words, the manifestations or symptoms of Covid can range across a great diversity of disease.

Is it just respiratory? No, it can present as neurological, or just gastro-intestinal. You could even luck out and have no symptoms at all! In fact, “…people with the virus have presented with or developed heart disease, acute liver injury, ongoing GI issues, skin manifestations, neurologic damage, and other problems, especially among sicker people.” Some have even needed dialysis.

I felt like I won the lottery when I said, “It’s in the BLOOD!

But then the Bride and Groom stopped by for lunch in the garden. They brought the Grands and the puppy of course because the Groom was picking up his new bicycle at our local bike shop. The weather has been cooperating – 70 degrees and sunny skies in November!

As of today, the Rocker and Aunt Kiki are flying in for Thanksgiving this coming week. They’ll be staying in the decon-garage apartment. We’ve all been tested, in fact, Bob was tested twice last week. So we will be following the new Nashville rule of no more than 8 in a family gathering – 3 tables in the garden of 4, 2 and 2. Oh, and the Bride is working in the ER on Thanksgiving – so we will celebrate on Friday.

The Groom is finished with his Covid ICU shift, and the Grands will stay home from school. Maybe we’ll find out if the Bride got the real Moderna vaccine? We can have a safe, socially distant Thanksgiving, and if all goes well, we may even be able to hug everybody eventually!

Happy Pandemic Thanksgiving y’all; this year will be different but we can always find something to be grateful for every day. Stay hopeful and wear your mask!

A Pandemic Puppy

Things are looking up! Last night, Moderna announced a 94.5% efficacy rate for its coronavirus vaccine trial.

Moderna is the second company to report preliminary data on an apparently successful vaccine, offering hope in a surging pandemic that has infected more than 53 million people worldwide and killed more than 1.2 million. Pfizer, in collaboration with BioNTech, was the first, reporting one week ago that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/health/Covid-moderna-vaccine.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

I may have mentioned that the Bride volunteered for the Moderna study this summer. She won’t know for sure if she received the real vaccine or a placebo for awhile, although I like to imagine that she did get the real deal. That would make her family rather bullet-proof, since the Groom is presumably immune after contracting Covid-19. And it was during his incarceration isolation in the garage apartment that a puppy plan began to take shape.

Call it foxhole faith if you must, but suffering through this election/pandemic/unprecedented year left our little Nashville family in need of some good old fashioned fun. And what could be more fun than a puppy? After all, it’s not as if we had never raised puppies before. When the Bride was about 13, I traipsed our Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Tootsie Roll, out to PA for a few days to breed with a champion male.

And just like that, Bob started building a whelping box!

I phoned the Flapper in desperation one night because pregnant Tootsie was walking all over the house panting and sighing. It was like she wanted to avoid that special place we had designed and built just for her right off the kitchen. I asked my Mother what she did when her dogs were about to give birth. “I wouldn’t know darling,” she said through puffs of cigarette smoke, “they went under the porch.”

Tootsie’s five pups were born in a far corner of the living room; I suspect if we had a porch she would have been under it. None of her puppies looked like her, like a tri-color Tootsie Roll wrapper; they were all gorgeous shades of sable brown, like their papa. I let the Rocker pick his puppy, so we kept Blaze who was the dominant male of the litter with a big white stripe up his forehead.

After that experience, we pivoted to rescue dogs who were mostly already potty trained. Like Joe and Jill Biden, our very first family canine decision was a rescue German Shepherd dog. Little Ms Bean is going on 13 years of freedom from the Charlottesville SPCA. And the Bride and Groom already have two big, black rescue dogs. What was needed now, by the Love Bug and her Mom, was a lap dog!

Coinciding with the good news from Pennsylvania and Georgia, the Bride and Groom surprised their kiddos with a French Bulldog puppy. He is very French, adorable and just so full of himself and mischief. Every day is a new adventure, and an opportunity to laugh out loud at his antics. I wonder if pandemic puppies in general will suffer from a lack of canine socialization, but I’m not worried about our little guy. He’s holding his own with the big dogs.

On Saturday night, Bob and I decided to have a puppy sleep-over party. After all, The Bride was working in the ER all weekend, and the Groom is attending in the Vandy Covid ICU this week – which btw, is filling up rapidly. They both needed a good night’s sleep. Making life and death decisions is hard enough without adding sleep deprivation. We were happy to help. After all, having a new Grand Dog is a sacred responsibility.

And having a dog (or in this case two) back in the White House fills me with hope. ALL of the votes will be certified by December 14th, and within a month, the electoral college will have met, Whether Mr T “decides” to concede defeat, or not, is moot. The transition of power to a sane and rational President-Elect Biden shall go forward.

I can puppy-promise you that.

Fusion Identity

Remember when “fusion” restaurants were a thing? The chef didn’t want to be nailed down to just one category of cuisine, so you might see an Italian/Southeast Asian menu. It all started with Tex-Mex if you ask me, and who can argue with a plate of loaded nachos?

Lately, I’ve been avoiding Mr T’s minions on the Hill, and their current power-hungry shenanigans; a morbid mix of math denial and transition obstruction for the Biden/Harris team. What’s keeping me up at night is the fact that 72 Million people in this country voted against their better interests.

We had nearly 1,600 deaths in this country from Covid-19 yesterday, but Mr T’s followers think we are “rounding the corner.”

Psychologists call this ability to remain loyal to an alternative narrative, to a fiction, “Fusion Identity.” It’s one step beyond passion and extremism, it’s a borderless wasteland where integrity and intellect go to die. Fusion identity is the reason cult followers must be de-programmed when they are rescued. Researchers will ask people to draw a circle for themselves, and then to draw another circle representing their obsession – a person or an organization, or a religion.

When the person’s individual circle is completely engulfed in the other circle, their identities have fused. Any tether to reality flies out the window.

Great Grandma Ada was really into the psychology of identity. If a marriage was in trouble, she would gently suggest returning to school as a remedy for the unhappy spouse. Her constant refrain was that everyone is in transition, and with a strong identity, one can surf the waves of pain and loss that are the inevitable side-effects of life.

Identity includes the many relationships people cultivate, such as their identity as a child, friend, partner, and parent. It involves external characteristics over which a person has little or no control, such as height, race, or socioeconomic class. Identity also encompasses political opinions, moral attitudes, and religious beliefs, all of which guide the choices one makes on a daily basis.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/identity

If someone is conflicted by their gender identity, or overwhelmed with the impression they are making on others, consumed with self doubt, they are a ripe target for a con artist. And a medical quack, someone who promises a cure for their malady with bleach or snake oil, is the most loathsome type of con. Once you hitch a ride on the Trump Train, you’ve fused your identity with a false narrative. You might as well call up the psychic hotline. You certainly don’t need to wear a mask.

President Obama just wrote in his memoir, in bookstores next Tuesday, that Trump “…promised an elixir for their (Trump’s followers) racial anxiety.”

There will never be an elixir, a pill or an easy explanation for the rise of Trumpism, for the reason the majority of GOP leaders feel the need to coddle this son of a millionaire real estate mogul who squandered his family’s fortune and future at the altar of his own bombastic ego.

But in our family, we have found a remedy to salvage what we have left of 2020, even though he does keep the Bride and Groom up at night.

It’s a pandemic French Bulldog puppy named Watson!

Stop the Madness

Right after the media called the election for Joe and Kamala, I saw a strange trend on Twitter about a landscaping business. But first, I must tell you how I heard the news four days after November 3rd. I’d just finished a call to Bob’s new niece in NC; we were talking mostly about Ada, we rarely talk politics. Our Saturday Zoom Pilates class with Rebeka was beginning, so I joined Bob on the floor.

In between double leg lifts on my yoga mat, I heard a male voice who must have unmuted himself to tell all those non-celebrity squares on my laptop something urgent. I grabbed my glasses and sat up:

“MSNBC just called the race for Joe Biden!”

Well, all those people on my computer screen did a silent version of YIPPEE! Hands were pumping, thumbs were up and eyes were teary. I got goosebumps, which is rare for me. In short order, we had to lie back down and finish our class but with a renewed sense of hope for our future.

Then I texted and called everyone I could think of, mostly people who don’t subscribe to cable news and may not have heard that there’s going to be a guy from Scranton, PA and a young, beautiful Black VP in the White House come January. We Facetimed with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi, people were dancing in the streets of LA!

Then the Four Season Landscaping business caught my eye. This story is even better than a Julia Louis Dreyfus episode of Veep! For some reason, that no one in Trumpworld will clarify, at the moment when the election was called, Rudy Giuliani was holding a “Stop the Count” event in the suburbs of Philadelphia on a road that leads to the state prison next to a porn shop and a crematorium.

Obviously somebody made a mistake. Maybe the event was supposed to be at the swanky hotel? Man, did I want to call Ada about this – some much needed hilarity in the midst of a vote count that was taking forever. A certified sex therapist, Dr Ruth without the accent, Dr Ada and I would have laughed and dished about Rudy throwing up his arms and screaming:

“Come on, don’t be ridiculous,” Giuliani said. “Networks don’t get to decide elections. Courts do.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/four-seasons-total-landscaping-guiliani-trump-election/2020/11/08/3cf80056-2134-11eb-b532-05c751cd5dc2_story.htm

I last saw Mr T’s fixer/lawyer in a Borat film trying to take his pants off. Rudy has always reminded me of Boris (and yes Melania is a little like Natasha) but I hate to remind him that actually VOTERS decide the election, we the PEOPLE have the last laugh. Finally, the utter chaos and madness of the last four years is coming to an end.

I Think of Ada

Whenever I see a feather

In the morning, when I reach to call her

As I feel hope rising for this country

As Hurricane Eta becomes a tropical depression

When I put on a Chico’s tee shirt

In anticipation of hugging my grandchildren

Standing still, with no construction noise

Cooking with TLC for my family

Finding a Christmas cactus in bloom

Whenever I look into the Love Bug’s deep dark eyes

A Woman of Valor

My Mother-in-Law, Great Grandma Ada, passed away this weekend. She wanted to live to see Joe Biden’s Inauguration Ceremony, but her sisters must have needed her to help with the victory party. For 96 years she radiated joy and pulled people into her orbit for a dose of compassion and a laugh almost every day. She was my rock, the person who always knew the right thing to do. That voice that would give me perspective when I needed it most.

Her arms were always a safe place to fall.

In the last seven months we could only visit through glass, but we did get to see her twice outside, and I touched her shoulder. Breaking the rules was always OK with Ada. The Bride and Groom were by her side when she went to the hospital, and we joined them to sing a farewell show tune or two. Her last words were, “I’m the luckiest woman in the world!”

The Rocker is working on a documentary about her life, and in a post-Covid 2021 we will celebrate this woman of valor and there will be food (of course) and music and laughter. Because that is what she would want.

Dr Ada P Rosen, affectionately known as Mamala to all, was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1924.  She was the adored youngest daughter of Ettie and Sam Pinkofsky, immigrants from Russia.  She truly never met a stranger, and was voted “Most Charming” in high school.  A woman of incredible resilience, her life was full of love and laughter.

She attended Brooklyn College, got her Master’s degree from Columbia University, and at age 65 received her PhD from Columbia Pacific University.  Her doctoral thesis in psychology was about the myriad benefits of humor. She made a habit of attending the Big Apple Circus every year with her grandchildren, at first in the Berkshires and later at Lincoln Center in NYC.  No one was surprised when she attended Clown College and became an official clown!

Ada liked to say she raised “…a bunch of hippies,” which is true. She and her first husband, Dr Herb Rosen, had three boys, but her home in Dover, NJ was a safe haven for all of their friends and in reality, she had fifteen or 20 children.  She was quite proud when she heard that the parent of one of those friends said they didn’t want their daughter “…going up there with all those free thinkers…” Food was her love language; hungry or not, coffee and cake were staples at her table.

In the summer of 1969 her kids said they were going to a concert in New York State.  To her, going to a concert meant Tchaikovsky or Beethoven – Woodstock wasn’t what she had in mind, but when she started seeing on the local news where her children had gone in their converted school bus, she loved it.

And every summer, her whole family, including her two sisters and their children, would descend on Four Bridges in Chester – a bungalow colony her parents owned and operated in the country. Ada became the Arts and Crafts Counselor. It was a charmed life.

To say that Ada was a force of nature doesn’t quite capture it. She didn’t just radiate positivity, she also drew everyone in with her warm smile and welcoming spirit.

In the 1970s as a newly single woman, she attended a counseling conference. Following one particular meeting, a man followed her into an elevator.  That man was Hudson Favell, who won Ada’s hand in marriage, and for the next 40 years never left her side except to carve totem poles that later, Ada would paint. He was an ex-Baptist missionary and pastoral counselor, and they traveled the world together.

Whether touring the hospital in Ghana that Hudson helped to build, visiting Japan many times, finding Jewish relatives in Minsk, or boating down the Amazon with cousin Sue Marcus, their adventures were legendary, as was her famous annual sit down Seder for the multitudes!

Any situation in life was ripe for a Yiddish saying, and she would give them out like candy to anyone in need of a little nudge in the right direction. “It will press out,” was said to console; “With one behind you can’t sit on ten toilets,” was meant to ease anxiety, and seems a propos in these pandemic times; and “What’s on his mind is on his tongue,” could explain the current occupant of the White House.

A marriage and family counselor, Ada practiced her craft in her office next to the kitchen – the boundary between home and office was semi-permeable. It would be impossible to count the number of lives she’s touched over 96 years. Students, clients, interns have all become friends. She could get on a plane in Newark for her 90th Birthday celebration and get off in Cabo San Lucas with an entire fuselage of new friends.

Ada was preceded in death by her parents, her sisters Mary and Bertha, and her beloved son Richard. She leaves behind two sons, Jeff and Robert Rosen, his wife Christine Lynn Rosen, and her grandchildren Dr Jessica Lynn Rosen and David James Rosen, and their spouses Dr Matt Semler, and Caitly Balthazar; and grandson Sam Rosen. Just before moving to Nashville, Ada discovered a lost granddaughter, Tamara Rush and her two boys, Jacob and Jackson. These newly-discovered relatives only added to her utter delight with great-grandchildren Caroline and Jack Semler.  Ada is also survived by step-children, nieces, nephews and cousins galore.

She so wanted to witness President Biden’s inauguration. In her memory, although Ada Flora loved flowers, she would rather you vote and contribute to the ACLU https://www.aclu.org/

Quiz Time

We are all holding our breath. Five days.

But really, it will most likely take longer to count ALL the ballots. I wish the UN would send some election poll watchers to us, because all those wannabe home-grown terrorist groups do not need to show up in my city. Maybe just a bus parked outside a polling place, filled with our National Guard, like they did at the Women’s March?

Why do Americans have to deal with voter intimidation and voter suppression? The Supreme Court will allow absentee ballots to be counted after the election in two battleground states – Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but not Wisconsin. What the hell? So if your absentee ballot was mailed in time, but arrived after election day, it doesn’t count?

In Canada people don’t even have to “register” to vote! They show up and vote, with ID presumably. My sister Kay has a friend, a naturalized citizen from South Africa, who stood in line to vote early in NYC for almost two hours. She is a cancer survivor and not young. I mean we can click a button on Amazon and get same day delivery, but we have to jump through hoops to perform our basic constitutional right!

“That echoed a concurring opinion issued on Monday by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh in a voting case from Wisconsin. Justice Kavanaugh also said that state legislatures, rather than state courts, have the last word in setting state election procedures. Writing on Wednesday, Justice Alito said he regretted that the election would be “’conducted under a cloud.’” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/28/us/supreme-court-pennsylvania-north-carolina-absentee-ballots.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Once upon a time I said “states rights” is a synonym for racism. Just like the electoral college, it exists under the shadow of slavery.

I’m taking a deep breath this morning and counting my blessings. My brother Dr Jim is doing well and is being discharged from the hospital today. The L’il Pumpkin is turning six and about to have a pandemic/socially/distant/halloween/ninja Birthday Party.

And I had a little fun taking this quiz – can you tell a Biden from a Trump supporter by peeking inside their fridge? I know, it may seem prejudicial but Bob says it’s like the Prius and the Pick-up, which is from a book he read. It’s the Noosa yogurt and the sourdough starter that’s a dead giveaway! https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/10/27/upshot/biden-trump-poll-quiz.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur

Broken Places

Halloween is on the way. Last year we went over to the kids’ house to see the Grands as they left for Trick or Treating. We stayed behind with the hounds to give out candy because our place is a forlorn block of 20 somethings partying. Like other pandemic holidays, All Saints Day this year will look a bit different. And our children are bound to be slightly broken hearted at the thought of a Zoom haunted house.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway from “A Farewell to Arms.”

At least the Love Bug had her cast removed on Friday. She broke a finger while riding her new bike and avoiding a parked car. I must say she was very proud of her injury; all her classmates got to sign her cast and I even managed my John Hancock – NANA. Maybe she could plant the name-covered cast in her front yard with fake fingers reaching out of the grave grass?

Why is it that kids can just return to normal life, or semi-normal life in this case, after a cast comes off? Start playing and writing and acting as if nothing happened. A few years ago, when I broke my pinky finger carrying the Baby Bug at a bounce house, I had to endure several weeks of Occupational Therapy. Still, my right pinky is shorter than my left, and should I ever resume traveling, my Global Entry fingerprint no longer works, if you must know…

“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in,” a mashup of Rumi, Leonard Cohen and Hemingway.

Some breaks are easier to see than others. We broke the rules about visiting Great Grandma Ada and Hudson. Children were not allowed to visit outside (or inside for that matter), but some rules are meant to be broken. Ada was thrilled to see her babies and almost got to sign the Bug’s cast, before we were found out.

My brother Dr Jim fell last week and broke 5 ribs. FIVE ribs, and he’s been hospitalized ever since. Luckily, his friends have been wonderful and the nurses in MN are exceptional and can appreciate his unique sense of humor. He is healing nicely and we intend to visit him soon. While he may be in a hospital gown that ties at the back, Jim is still a working psychologist, trying to fix broken souls, wherever he may find them.

Here is a scary picture for Halloween. Bob and I were on a houseboat in the Seine on the outskirts of Paris. Our friend said to do something interesting. But don’t worry, only the Brie was cut and no marriage was broken on this trip two years ago. https://mountainmornings.net/2018/09/06/a-kiss-de-paris/

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